The MVP is playing.
So are the reigning champions, north of the border.
And out in LA, the NBA’s newest dynamic duos will square off as
On the 65th day of the season, with 454 games – more than one-third
of the schedule – already in the books, the NBA’s unofficial start
date has arrived. The annual Christmas Day quintupleheader of games
is Wednesday, the day when the casual fan typically turns his or
her attention toward the NBA.
”It’s going to be cool, man,” said Toronto guard Kyle Lowry,
who’ll be making his Christmas debut. ”It’s going to be very cool.
I’ve always watched it on TV ever since I was a young child. And
it’s going to be awesome to step foot on that floor on Christmas
Day, have my family and friends around and have the whole world
The good news from a ratings perspective: Four of the Eastern
Conference’s five best teams so far are on the schedule, all
playing each other. The bad news: The two worst teams in the
Western Conference so far also are on the schedule. But LeBron
James and Anthony Davis’ first Christmas as Los Angeles Lakers
teammates – facing off against the crosstown rival Clippers –
should certainly draw plenty of eyeballs.
”I hope everybody has a great holiday and spends some time with
their families, but it’s about the next opponent in front of us,”
Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. ”We have to get a win.”
The other matchups: Boston goes to Toronto in the NBA’s first
Christmas game in Canada, followed by Milwaukee visiting
Philadelphia, Houston going to Golden State, the Lakers-Clippers
contest and then a nightcap between New Orleans and a Denver team
led by Nikola Jokic and off to the best start in franchise history
”You’re always told that the best teams play on Christmas, the
All-Star players play on Christmas and the whole world is watching
this game,” said Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, the league’s
reigning MVP who has even better numbers this year than he did a
The potential certainly exists for some playoff-preview matchups.
It’s not a stretch to think that the Raptors and Celtics or 76ers
and Bucks will wind up meeting in a best-of-seven come April or
May. And the same holds true in Los Angeles, where the Clippers and
Lakers might be the best of the West.
The Lakers have Davis and James. The Clippers now have Paul George
and two-time NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. Those two pairings shook
up the league’s landscape considerably when they came together this
past summer, and so far with the Lakers at 24-6 and the Clippers at
22-10, neither side has much to complain about.
”I think we’re good,” George said. ”I think we’re good.”
The Clippers are 10-3 in games where both Leonard and George start.
Davis and James are one of two duos where both are averaging more
than 25 points per game; Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins in
Minnesota are the other.
The pairing of James and Davis has looked spectacular at times
already. If there was any confusion about whether those two
superstar talents could work together, those questions have been
”We know what the end goal is,” Davis said. ”And when you have
guys like that, with veteran leadership, when everyone is locked in
to our goal, it’s easy for us to jell together.”
James puts it even more simply.
”It’s about getting better, each and every day,” James said.
Christmas is where last year’s Lakers season went wrong – they were
fourth in the West, then James got hurt on Dec. 25 and LA went on a
free fall out of the playoff picture. And injuries will affect some
of what the league gets to display on Christmas this year as well.
Golden State has been doomed by injuries all season, with no Klay
Thompson and no Stephen Curry for much of this season. New Orleans
was picked to be part of the showcase day because of No. 1 overall
pick Zion Williamson, who has yet to appear in a regular-season
game – his summer league was cut short by injury, and a stellar
preseason ended the same way. And Toronto is missing several top
players right now, including Pascal Siakam and Marc Gasol.
But make no mistake: The Raptors have been waiting a long time to
be part of NBA Christmas. Wednesday is their first time on the
holiday schedule since 2001.
”It’ll be interesting,” Toronto coach Nick Nurse said. ”I wish
we had more of our regular guys playing in it, but we’ve got to go
play the game nevertheless. So we’ll see. I think it’ll be fun. I’m
getting a lot of messages from back home. Everybody’s going to be